FirstNet’s Competition. The law that created FirstNet is very clear when it comes to states and territories opting in or out of FirstNet. There are two ways to opt in: The governor of the state or territory decides to opt in by the December 28, 2017 deadline, or the governor simply does nothing in which case the opt in for that state is automatic. Opting out requires the state to provide the FCC, within 180 days, a plan demonstrating that the Radio Access Network (RAN), the only portion of the network authorized by law for states to build on their own, will be 100-percent compatible with the FirstNet network. The state will then negotiate a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for some of the network. As a final step, there must be a spectrum lease agreement between the state and FirstNet. All of this is called out in the law Congress passed in 2012. These are not conditions imposed by FirstNet.
Now if a state opts out, the FirstNet mandate is that the radio access network provided by the state or its vendor must be connected to the FirstNet core when public safety users populate the FirstNet network. FirstNet has also said that secondary users may, in fact, be routed to a different core located within the state or operated by the vendor. Again, ALL public safety traffic is to be routed to the FirstNet core. This makes sense when you understand this is to be a nationwide network sharing resources and applications that is usable across the entire nation.
Once a state has opted in there are no additional federal rules that impact public safety agencies within the state. Each agency has the option to join the FirstNet system, with its existing broadband provider, or to not use any broadband services. This local level is the area in which competition is occurring. Verizon has said it will actively seek to keep its existing public safety customers and to add more customers. It is also trying to obtain permission to host its own public safety core. Both FirstNet and AT&T are opposed to this with good reason. Having multiple standalone cores does not lend itself to fulfilling the goal of full interoperability this network was envisioned to provide. I have been told by experts in the field that if the cores are connected to each other the overall system will be more difficult to secure from a cybersecurity perspective, which is high on the list of network priorities. Read the Entire Blog here Continue reading
Now That Your State Has Opted-In. As of today, 27 states and territories have opted in to FirstNet and it appears as though more are preparing to make the move. Once your state opts in, what do your local, regional, and state agencies do? There are four options:
• Keep using the network operator that is providing you with broadband service. If it is not AT&T, that is fine according to the law.
• Move over to AT&T now and start receiving the full advantages of the FirstNet ecosystem as it is rolled out over the next few years.
• Adopt a wait-and-see attitude and watch how the network evolves.
• Don’t use any broadband data and continue to rely on voice services-only as you always have.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to decide at an agency or multi-agency level, all these options need to be considered as well as pricing. However, if your city or county’s elected or appointed officials will be making the decision based on other factors, such as an existing overall contract with a broadband vendor, and/or what appear to be price differences only, the best you can do is prepare a case for the solution you think is best for your agency and work to gain support among those who will be making the decision. Hopefully, you will be able to make the decision based on the factors that most impact your agency and, of course, the price you will have to pay for the service each month. Continue reading
The Opt-In/Opt-Out Clock Is Ticking! States have until December 28, 2017, to decide to either opt in or opt out of FirstNet. There is a third option available, which is a passive opt in, meaning that if a governor does nothing by the deadline the state is considered as an opt-in state. So far, one territory (Puerto Rico) and 26 states have opted in. A number of states have issued RFPs for comparison of what FirstNet is offering and what another vendor might offer them. New Hampshire’s governor already awarded its RFP to Rivada in the event it opts out, but since then formed a committee to weigh opt-in/opt-out pros and cons (the state staff had voted to recommend opting out). Unless something changes and New Hampshire opts in, Rivada may have at least one state to build out.
Some of FirstNet’s detractors are claiming that other states should follow New Hampshire’s lead, but no one outside the state knows exactly what was proposed in the RFP responses, nor do we know if the state’s requirement of income for New Hampshire from the proceeds of the FirstNet network was addressed in writing in the RFP response. The best information I have is that a state may not profit from the proceeds of the FirstNet network except to reinvest any funds derived from secondary use of the spectrum back into the network.
I have to wonder who will have to fund any shortfall in income from the network—the vendor or the state. Our most recent review of all ten of New Hampshire’s counties shows none have sufficient numbers of first responders to fund the network and none are in need of the spectrum on a secondary basis. Thus it appears New Hampshire will face a substantial shortfall. The question of the day is if there is a shortfall, who pays for it? Read the Entire Blog Here . Continue reading
The Vison Which Became FirstNet There are a number of people within the States and the Public Safety community who are not happy with the coverage which AT&T/FirstNet is offering on day one. Perhaps if they had a better understanding of the fact that the RFP could have been won by someone who would built out just the FirstNet Band 14 and that it might have had to have been built out as a greenfield (totally new) network they would better understand the difference between a network which is available today and one that might be 3-5 years away in their area.
Sometimes we need to reflect on the past and to remind those who have come to both embrace and complain about FirstNet about the original dreams and aspirations of those who have been involved in this journey, most for over 11 years and a few even longer. During the activities which resulted in Congressional Approval and President Obama signature which allocated the 10 MHz of spectrum referred to as the D block and created FirstNet, there were a lot of discussions by those involved. There was a discussion about the type of network or networks which was (were) needed. Some favored a “network of networks” that is a number of different networks, perhaps state by state or by dividing the Country into thirds but the consensus was that a single nationwide network would be the best approach and the focus shifted to that goal.
There were other discussions held by the member of the Public Safety Alliance (PSA) as well as the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) which held the license for the original 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum the FCC had allocated for a public safety broadband network. After FirstNet was formed some on the FirstNet board showed a diagram outlining a plan where each and every device on the FirstNet spectrum would also be able to seamlessly roam across all of the commercial broadband networks as well as the FirstNet spectrum. This, we were assured, would provide the best way to achieve a true mission critical system. As you might imagine the public safety community reacted in a negative manner and over time this idea as scraped. Next up after FirstNet regrouped was go to bid for both the one network approach and essentially a network of networks concept. Fortunately, FirstNet listened and the RFP came out calling for a single, nationwide network. Read The entire Blog Here Continue reading
When All Else Fails, There Is Ham Radio As I am preparing a report on the commercial and public safety communications activities during and after Harvey, Irma, and now Maria, which was the worst of the batch, I took some time to reach out to the amateur radio community to find out what they have been doing. The answer is a lot, and often! First, the Radio Relay International (RRI) organization made up of amateur radio operators who specialize in long-range communications has been busy handling health and welfare massages from the islands.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross, which has a relationship with the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), put out a call for fifty Red Cross certified ham radio operators to travel to Puerto Rico. Tim Duffy, president of the Radio Club of America (RCA) and president of a large amateur radio supply company also played an active role. A number of hams from the United States have traveled to the islands while mainland hams have been receiving radio traffic, mostly at this point from residents who want to let their mainland family members know they are alright.
Other ham radio emergency organizations such as the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES), the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACEs) and the Military Affiliate Radio System (MARs) have all been active in the three hurricanes and in providing local communications after the storms passed. Hams man stations at Red Cross and other shelters and assist the public safety community when asked. In the case of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, they are serving another important function, that of notifying relatives on the mainland of island residents who are safe. This type of radio traffic is sent using shortwave radios that can communicate over long distances and can be set up and used with a simple wire-type antenna strung between two trees or buildings. Read the Entire Blog Here Continue reading
Dan Robinson, acting supervisor for field support services for Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS), offers the latest updates on the Programming and Management (PAM) Tool, which helps with the increasingly complicated job of programming two-way radios.
Read complete article here: https://www.rrmediagroup.com/Features/FeaturesDetails/FID/790
An increasing number of public-safety agencies—particularly those with smaller budgets and/or located in rural areas—are opting for land-mobile-radio technologies other than P25, according to John Lenihan, chairman of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) interoperability committee. During last week’s NPSTC meeting, Lenihan said the interoperability working group is “following the increased use of non-P25 digital formats” by public-safety agencies that cannot afford to buy P25 systems and subscriber radios.
“It just seems to be that, as grant money dries up, there’s no longer federal money for subscriber units,” Lenihan said during the NPSTC meeting. “Especially the small agencies and rural agencies are opting for less-expensive versions of radios that meet their day-to-day needs. The obvious problem with that is going to be interoperability.” Read complete article here: http://urgentcomm.com/interoperability/cash-strapped-public-safety-agencies-adopting-non-p25-technologies-increasing-frequ